2016 in Review – 2017 Preview

I try to spend some time at the end of each year reflecting on what we’ve accomplished but more importantly thinking about what we should be working on moving forward. 2016 was an eventful year for ArchVision. We celebrated our 25th year in business in August. No small feat as those of you that run your own businesses can attest. It was probably equal doses of foresight, naivety, stubbornness and love of the industry that carried us this far.

If you followed ArchVision over the years you probably witnessed us going through numerous transition periods with our products. 2015 and ’16 were years where you may not have perceived a lot of activity with our existing products but behind the scenes it was just the opposite. We introduced a new product in September called AVAIL, a new approach to enterprise content management that is sweeping across the AEC industry. Released commercially in late August, AVAIL has been in development for more than 3 years and has it’s origins in the ArchVision Dashboard product. In late 2015 we introduced a new content product called Detail Warehouse that is destined to change the way the AEC industry thinks about BIM content. Throughout the past year we augmented the RPC subscription content collection with hundreds of new RPC Automobiles and we have been laying some groundwork to dramatically increase the volume, quality and variety of RPC formatted content, ready to drag & drop into your next project.


I’m not sure if AVAIL is a result of that foresight or naivety I mentioned but we seem to have struck a chord. Thanks to everyone who helped during the beta period as we couldn’t have done it without you. AVAIL is solving what we now refer to as that 40 year old Windows file folder problem we’ve all become numb to. If you haven’t seen AVAIL in action check out the AVAIL YouTube channel. There are a couple of overview videos for managing visualization assets or specifically how AVAIL can be used to manage Revit content. You can try AVAIL for yourself (I suggest watching the video(s) first so you have an idea of what it is designed to do) by visiting getavail.com and downloading a fully functioning install. The only limit is how many Channels you can create and how much content you can index. It’s designed to let you get your feet wet with your own content. AVAIL comes alive once you see and start organizing your own assets.


Detail Warehouse is the world’s largest commercial repository of native-built Revit drafting views encompassing 50 sub-categories of door, roof, window and foundation details. Designed to be a starting point for building your own internal detail library, what you currently see in Detail Warehouse is just the beginning. In 2016 we continued to augment the subscription with additional detail components such as Wood Screws and Sleeve Anchors as well as new AISC Steel Shapes. 2017 promises to bring new categories of not only details but oft-used families and components. We’re also working to more tightly integrate the delivery and management of Detail Warehouse with AVAIL so watch for updates early in 2017.


Last but certainly not least is the RPC platform. We introduced a new partnership with AXYZ Design for photorealistic people content delivered as 3D+ RPCs. If you haven’t previewed and sampled these collections you owe it to yourself to take a look as they’re a spectacular way to liven up your renderings. In the past couple of months we were also pleased to announce the addition of 3 new rendering and visualization applications to the RPC family. It has been the year-of-Revit as Enscape, Revizto and V-Ray for Revit all have released RPC support in their latest releases.

While we’re continuing to augment and deliver the world’s most comprehensive collection of architectural entourage we’ve also been busy laying the groundwork for some exciting new ways you’ll be able to leverage the RPC platform. The current RPC Creator tool in Dashboard lets you convert any 2D TIFF or PNG image into an RPC, ready to use in your preferred modeling and and visualization applications. Get ready, we’re about to open up the ability to create your own 3D+ RPCs! We’re working to broaden your ability to create your own RPCs from existing models. Without getting into too much detail you’ll be able to convert most any 3d model into an RPC.

As an example consider the airplane in the image below. It started as a SketchUp model on 3D Warehouse, textures were “baked” in 3dsMax, exported along with the geometry and converted to RPC. The resulting RPC was then placed in Revit and rendered using Enscape. All within minutes! We’ll be launching the new RPC Creator capability as a web service accessible at labs.archvision.com soon so watch your inbox for details.


Thanks to everyone for your continued support. We couldn’t work on such fun projects without you! Looking forward to helping each of you in 2017.


Taming The Content Beast

with_the_lions_1Content is an insatiable beast. Demands are ever changing. As with most things, what worked yesterday is replaced by something that provides more value today.

At ArchVision we think of content in terms of flow, not something that’s static. While we continue to add new RPCs to your subscription plan we realize it is never enough. Though we try, it’s an impossible task to satisfy the thousands of unique needs of our customers across the globe.


In order to best service and satisfy those varied needs we began investing in opening up the RPC Platform to encourage others to participate. We’ve always encouraged support for RPC content in the leading applications. The success of RPC begins and ends with broad support in what we call the “host” applications; the software you find critical to your daily workflow. Today you can use RPC content in 3ds Max, Autocad, Revit, Microstation, Rhino, FormZ, Modo, Photoshop and with the leading rendering solutions like V-Ray and Accurender. There’s rumor something might be in the works for SketchUp as well. Check out labs.archvision.com for more info.

Support for RPC in the host apps doesn’t quell the content appetite. We had to open RPC to anyone who wanted to take advantage of the tightly integrated workflow. We started this process several years ago by moving to a subscription business model. This allowed us to truly think of RPC content as a never ending flow available to subscribers and to look for others who may have content that could be delivered most effectively via RPC.

Last year we released a new and improved RPC Creator tool integrated with the ArchVision Dashboard. RPC Creator lets anyone drag and drop a PNG or TIFF formatted image onto Dashboard and instantly create an RPC. That ease of creating RPCs has brought thousands of new RPCs into existence over the past year.

As part of this initiative we were pleased to announce our first RPC Publishing partner, 3dRender, and the availability of their popular Pro-Viz People textures in the RPC format. We’ll be announcing additional partners in the coming months.

So now that we’ve got you making RPCs what’s the next logical step?


Stash!We believe many of you will be willing to share the RPCs you’ve been making with the new RPC Creator tool. If every matted PNG or TIFF image could be converted to RPC it’s more likely you’ll be able to find just the right content to satisfy your needs.

So we’ve started an experiment we call Stash!. Stash! is a repository of RPCs you’ve created and offered to share with the community of RPC users around the world. It’s not fancy (yet) but gets the job done. All you need to do is hit the “Submit to Stash!” button and upload your Custom RPC. We’ll test the RPC and post your submission to Stash! to share with everyone.

If you haven’t visited Stash! you should check out some of the content your colleagues have contributed and add them to your collection. Better yet, if you’ve made something you think others would enjoy make your own contribution to Stash!


The Power of Universal Tags

We’ve been hard at work on the ability to easily convert 2D textures into RPC and now have a new Dashboard-integrated RPC Creator tool in widespread use. Converting your PNG and TIFF cutouts into RPC is as easy as dragging and dropping those alpha-masked images onto the Drop Zone within the RPC Creator. Add a Name and Height and an RPC is generated complete with a custom icon and preview. As an RPC you’ll find many advantages over the original PNG or TIFF format including automatic Sketchup-style “Face Me” capabilities within applications like 3ds Max, Revit and Autocad. For those of you who have gone through the process of trying to get your 2D cutouts to play nicely in those apps you know how many steps it takes to accomplish what should be a simple task. RPC makes that pain go away.

We’re also introducing the first of a series of organizational tools designed to make finding the right content easy. Accompanying the RPC Creator is a new Tag Editor. The Tag Editor lets you add Tags (metadata) to the RPCs you create. These Tags make content searchable within Dashboard. We’re also introducing a visual tag-cloud feature called Filters that presents the Tags that have been added to content in an easy-to-navigate visual interface. Click on a Tag or Tags and quickly filter to the content you need.


As we began working on these new features we thought about how best to help you organize and make use of your content. We made several observations:

Observation #1: Everyone knows tagging can be a powerful organizing tool but there’s one big problem… nobody wants to spend time tagging things.

Observation #2: A lot of the content you use is also being used by other people around the world.

So why not take advantage of the fact that the same content is in use across the globe and let Tags automatically follow the same content? With Dashboard we have the ability to do just that! We’re excited to introduce a concept we call Universal Tags. Here’s how it works. We don’t share your content. In fact, your content never has to leave your local environment for Universal Tags to work. We create a unique identifier for each piece of content and use that to track the Tags associated with the content. The effect is that when you introduce a piece of content into your own environment that has been viewed in Dashboard by someone else, we essentially get an up-vote  for common Tags that have been associated with that content. After a specified number of up-votes the Tags can be converted to public tags.  If no one has added tags or you’re the first to introduce the content to Dashboard you’ll have to add your own tags. It’s a powerful network effect, as tags are added by one person everyone benefits!

As you know, information is only as useful as it is accurate. So it’s up to you to add meaningful tags. The Tag Editor will let you remove Tags that you don’t find useful and we use those as votes as to the value of that Tag to others.  We also use this concept to automatically provide a Name and Height to RPCs during the RPC Creation process so assigning a descriptive name and accurate height helps everyone.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts on these new features.

The (near) Future of RPC – Custom Content

Several members of our team traveled to Las Vegas week before last for Autodesk University 2013. In conjunction with the developer meetings and user events we held our own private gathering with a couple dozen ArchVision customers. During that event we gave everyone an update of the latest commercially available products as well as a preview of some things we’ve been working on. We brought a little bit of Kentucky with us hosting a bourbon tasting event at the Emeril Lagasse restaurant Table 10. Everyone seemed to enjoy the bourbon and the company. The official story is everyone behaved themselves. But not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!

RPC_creatorWe’re weeks away from beginning to release a new RPC creation tool. I say “beginning to release” because we plan to slow-roll this out to select alpha/beta testers in January. As those in attendance at the “Bourbon Club” event in Vegas witnessed first hand, it’s really cool! RPC Creator will be integrated tightly with Dashboard. You can drag and drop any 32-bit PNG or TIF image onto the RPC Creator tool within Dashboard and we’ll automagically create an RPC of that image for you, complete with a custom icon and preview. All you need to do is give it a Name and a Height so it will scale properly in your scene. A few seconds later you can begin dragging and dropping that RPC into Revit, 3ds Max or Autocad!

If you’re like most you have quite a collection of both commercially available imagery as well as your own custom images painstakingly matted out in Photoshop or some other image editing tool. With the new RPC Creator tool you’ll be able to convert each of those images into a fully functioning RPC in seconds. We think one of the most valuable aspects of the RPC platform is the ability to get image-based data into an application like Revit or 3ds Max with the least amount of effort. As a native image/texture you’d have to create geometry in your scene, add the image as a texture to a material, assign the material, figure out how to get that geometry to always face your camera, etc. Many, many steps and depending on the application, maybe impossible to do (does Revit even have a “look at” feature???). As an RPC, drag and drop it into your scene with no additional steps.

Another feature of Dashboard that will be rolling out in conjunction with the RPC Creator will be the ability to add Tags to any RPC. These tags are then search-able making it easy to find the content you’re looking for. We’re also making those tags “universal” meaning if you’ve added a tag to an RPC, everyone else in the world using that RPC benefits by being able to search on that tag. We think this will have an incredibly powerful network effect on the way content is searched and managed within Dashboard. The beauty of this universal tagging approach to content is that you didn’t have to share the content itself for the tags to be inherited. Without getting into too much detail, imagine that you purchased a commercially available library of image-based content that you want to convert to RPC. There are likely thousands of others around the world who did the same thing. If you add a tag to a piece of content that tag will automatically associate itself with an instance of that content anywhere it is seen by Dashboard! Think of it as crowd-sourcing of tags. Small, incrementally valuable pieces of information aggregate with the content. The community builds value around their assets. We think it will be a win-win for everyone.

We’re excited about getting this in your hands and working feverishly to finish up some of the final details. If you have a lot of 32-bit imagery and you’d like to be one of our RPC Creator betas, let us know. Talk to you soon.


RPC Creator: Where Did You Get That RPC?

Every few days, we receive a customer submitted project that include unique “new” RPCs. My typical response is: “Cool, that’s a new RPC!” Where do you get these “new” RPCs — you create them yourself! Sure, we have thousands of RPCs available but, sometimes, you or more likely your client want custom content. For years, we’ve distributed a free tool to create 2D RPCs for your own use and a paid tool that enables you to create 3D RPCs. For RPC 2D Content, all you need is our ArchVision Creator software (free) and a matted out image (RGB and alpha).

My favorite summer inspired RPC is from WATG (Irvine). Expert, Scott Brown, used ArchVision’s RPC Creator to make custom RPC dolphins to enhance a project. (Dolphins remind me of the beach. I love vacationing at the ocean with my family and this time of the year is great for dolphin watching in South Carolina).

It’s a pretty easy process to make your own custom RPCs. We’ve seen branded coffee baristas and fast food counter clerks to IKEA chairs and a client’s dog. And, I also have users tell me how much they love adding their clients into their renderings.

Thousands of new RPCs are sitting on servers around the planet. And again, I say, “Cool!” Of course, I’m a little biased when it comes to RPC Content.

How do you get a copy of RPC Creator to create your own 2D RPCs for Free?

You can download the RPC Creator here. (Editor’s note: This product is currently under development for enhancement and will be released as a feature in ArchVision Dashboard in the near future, 8/12/2013). Once installed this tool creates an authorization request code. Send this to support@archvision.com and the Customer Service team will send you an authorization code.

Getting Started is Easy
All that you need is a photo editing software (to create the alpha mask), a photo, and the RPC Creator. You can view a usage tutorial here: Getting Started

Just a few steps in RPC Creator and you can output an RPC file that will work with all of the RPC tools, cross platform just like the 2D RPCs you purchase from ArchVision.com.

Beyond creating cool content, there are some other benefits that come along with creating custom RPCs. Complex 3D models can be rendered and turned into RPCs making them use much less memory and render faster as a planar RPC object instead of a high poly model. All of the Mass Edit and Population features can also be applied to the RPC format unlike other object formats.

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